Conceptually rethinking “ignorance is bliss”

writersbrain

“Ignorance is bliss,” as the age old expression goes.

I have always been deeply offended by this concept. I remember hearing it for the first time as a twelve year old, from a boy in class using it out of context in an attempt at flirtation with my best friend. It was a signpost slamming down in front of me, bifurcating the road ahead. Did that imply the only way to obtain bliss was through a life of ignorance? How does one impose ignorance upon oneself? It was an unfathomable maneuver for twelve-year-old me. It defied the laws of entropy we were learning about in science class. You can push a ball downhill and it will roll, but to push a ball uphill requires work. For some it seemed, knowledge acquisition was an uphill venture, but my ball was rolling easily downhill. Ignorance would require some forceful blockade.

I couldn’t contemplate it much more at the time, as we were headed to a field trip at a water park. So I added “ignorance is bliss” to the arsenal of insults I kept on deck to sling back at boys who would dare to pull my pigtails. I guess I was supposed to feel jealousy of those naturally predisposed to ignorance, and of the pleasures they are able to easily derive through capitalism. Sometimes I do. But only in the fleeting way one might feel jealous of a labrador, unable to process injustice in the world beyond not being allowed outside to chase a squirrel.

These days, I am quite certain that bliss, true bliss, can not be obtained via any willful practice of ignorance. We should really revise this phrase, so as to not offend those high-bandwidth minds that could begin to get this planet unfucked. Ignorance may be “contentment,” “satisfaction” at most. But bliss, real bliss, comes from being able to see those things in their places on a much more robust spectrum, and seeking out the upper limits while not fearing the lower. After all, these states temporary.

 

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